Telling Alaska’s Story: Kenaitze Indian Tribe celebrates new Learning Center in Kenai

Telling Alaska’s Story: Kenaitze Indian Tribe celebrates new Learning Center in Kenai.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 6:26 PM AKDT
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KENAI, Alaska (KTUU) - Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht means “Kenai River People’s Learning Place” in the Dena’ina language, and members of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe were excited to celebrate the grand opening of the facility recently.

The state-of-the-art, 67,259-square-foot building will allow the tribe to house all of its educational programs under one roof, including summer camps, educational counseling, and early education for Alaska Native and non-Native families in the Kenai area.

The Learning Place offers classes from head start to preschool, as well as after-school programs for grades K-12.

The building features a large multipurpose room, called the gathering place, that can hold up to 300 people.

“The gathering place is probably my favorite,” Director of Tribal Administration Peter Evon said. “That is a big space that is needed for the tribe to be able to host activities and events but also for the community as well, as we are able to welcome people for certain things that the Tribe has going on .”

Tribal Council member Virginia Wolf said a primary mission of the Learning Place is to teach the Dena’ina language and culture, including the values Alaska Native people live by.

“It’s something that we have always done from generation to generation: is to teach our traditional values, to respect not only our creator and be thankful for that. But also to respect our elders as well as the water, the air, the land,” Wolf said. “It’s just to teach all of that and bring it as a special part of individual life.”

As for teaching the language, Wolf said she gets emotional thinking about how it is embedded into the Learning Place curriculum, considering her own mother was chastised for speaking her Native language.

“I was never able to learn except for by bits and pieces because it was not allowed,” Wolf said. “So to have this in this building, and in every department is very emotional for me. Because it’s something that I missed out on as a child, and so the fact that it is going to live on is exciting.”

Kahtnuht’ana Duhdeldiht opened to students in early September, but is already at capacity with 125 students in the early learning programs, and 100 enrolled in after-school programs.

Parents are advised to get on a waitlist and check out the Kenaitze Indian Tribe website for more information.